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Exercise — it's good for the brain

Comments (7)
By Peter Hadzipetros

If you're still looking for reasons to get off the couch and get active, this study out of the Medical College of Georgia might get you thinking.

Researchers found that overweight children lowered their risk of diabetes and improved their ability to think after just three months of daily, vigorous activity. They studied 200 overweight kids and taught them about the benefits of healthy nutrition and the benefits of physical activity. The kids were split into groups that exercised for either 20 or 40 minutes, getting their heart rates up to 79 per cent of maximum.

While that's not chest-pounding, gasping for every last bit of air exertion, it is pretty strenuous. Like how you might feel after a shift of fairly intense pick-up hockey.

The lead investigator — Dr. Catherine Davis — said while exercise alone did not make the children lean and healthy, they did have "less fat, a healthier metabolism and an improved ability to handle life."

MRIs of the brains of some of the children who exercised showed different patterns of brain activity during an "executive function task."

Well, that's good. Because most of the news on the overweight/obesity front isn't good. Another study of 168,000 people in 63 countries — published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association — found that 40 per cent of men and 30 per cent of women around the world are overweight, while 24 per cent of men and 27 per cent of women are obese.

The study found that excess body fat — especially abdominal fat, which greatly increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes — is a global problem and threatens to overwhelm healthcare services in many countries.

And why the global pandemic? Maybe it's our love affair with cheap calories.

Yet another study suggests that Americans don't think much of healthy food. The Temple University study found that people are more likely to consider healthy food bland tasting and are less willing to pay more for healthy dishes. It also found that dining out greatly increases your chances of becoming obese.

Not surprisingly, the body mass index (BMI) of people eating three to six meals a week at fast food restaurants was significantly greater than the BMI of people who consumed one or two fast food meals a week. In 2006, the average American reported eating out five times a week — mostly at fast food restaurants.

And it's no wonder. Making my way to work yesterday morning through downtown Toronto's underground maze, I was struck by take-out places offering up everything from wonderfully-smelling cinnamon buns to any large slice of pizza and a tub of sugar-laden carbonated beverage (one that I do profess a weakness for) at a super-low price. And if that's not enough there was the candy store boasting "we satisfy your cravings."

It's almost like they're saying resistance is futile. Exercise more and maybe we can clear our minds a little and help think our way out of obesity — or at least resist temptation a little longer.

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Comments (7)

John

Three comments: 1. There is no way you can exercise your way out of overeating. 2. You don't pay more, as you say, for healthy dishes. You pay exceedingly less than prepared products. 3. Media has a huge influence on our urges. The next time you watch TV just check how much ad time is devoted to food.

Posted November 30, 2007 12:25 PM

Michelle

canada

It's so bizarre to me. As a parent of 3 kids...I don't understand not being involved in your child's health. It's your responsibility as a parent to teach them to lead a healthy life. Media has nothing to do with it. If you don't buy it, they don't eat it. As a child I never got money to spend "where I wanted". Why do our kids need that money? Teach them to save for items they really want. I never send my children anywhere with money. My oldest has a canteen at school and it is stocked with healthy food. No chocolate bars, no pop and no transfat items. When the cooking class gets going they sell healthy items there. We talk about what she will buy on the rare occasion that she's allowed to buy something there ($1 or $2 at a time not $5 or $10). Nutrition is something we need to teach our children. My children know that trans fats are bad, they know they need protein, carbs and healthy fats. It's not rocket science. And people eat out 5 times a week and call healthy food tasteless? It boggles my mind. YOu can buy all brown food and yet a healthy stirfry with a rainbow of colors is tasteless? I think people, not media, not stores are responsible for what they put in their own bodies and what their children under 18 put in theirs. It's okay to say no to your children. And the same goes for exercise. You are responsible for teaching your child to move. Bottom line take back the parental controls and really put your child's health and nutrition as your goal.

Posted October 29, 2007 04:33 PM

Sarah

Ottawa

None of this is a suprise.
I've lost fairly significant weight (50 lbs give or take) and have kept it off for years. I'm constantly fiddling with my portions of food and fitness to generate a good fit for my body. I really enjoy exercise, and I really enjoy food. It takes work, that is the part people shy away from - the work involved to be accountable for your health. The rewards though are endless! A healthy lifestyle is a complete brain boost, it has helped improve my concentration and helped stress and anxiety in my life which in turn I believe has helped my personal and professional life enormously.

The benefits of living a healthy life, getting enough exercise, and eating these so-called "bland" healthy foods (my diet is far fom bland) are huge. People just don't like the idea of working for and being patient with it, and that's just sad.

Posted October 27, 2007 05:21 PM

Didem

Montreal

As a soon to be graduating dietetics student, I can honestly say that after almost four years of studying nutrition and health, I can summarize my learnings into two points: eat less and move more. It really is so incredibly simple...I'm not a fan of Nike, but their slogan is unbeatable: just do it! And this goes for everyone - individuals, governments...let's just start implementing all of the changes we know we need.

Posted October 27, 2007 08:57 AM

Anele

Montreal

Another suggestion: standardize food labelling and make it mandatory on ALL groceries, including things like alcohol. It took me three months to find out from the manufacturer how many calories are in a bottle of cider because the labels were not there. It's 142, which means a night of drinking and eating easily adds up to what a person needs for the whole day.
List nutritional info per 100g. Portion size changes from one item to another, and it's a pain to work this out while shopping.

Posted October 25, 2007 11:35 AM

Ryan

Halifax

I don't believe this problem has much to do with people not exercising enough, as much as it does with plain improper eating. The body simply can not compete with the mouth. IMHO

Interestingly enough, I once heard that a common characteristic amongst species before they go extinct is gigantism. I don't know how much water that holds, but it's something to think about.

Posted October 25, 2007 11:16 AM

jim

Timmins

I still don't get how any of the latest studies (since 2000)shock anyone anymore. How can you live anywhere in Canada, other than in a cave somewhere; and not have heard the negative effects of obesity? Although if you did live in a cave, you wouldn't know what McDonalds is, and most likely be better off. I don't know the eventuality of evolution, but we have definately steered natural selection away from survival of the fitest. Maybe we rely too much on our government to protect us-a six year old can't drive, own a gun, buy alcohol or cigarettes-but as long as he has a $5 bill he can get a head start on clogging those arteries. And since the government decided that exercise was just using up valuable class time then it must not be necessary. Wake up people-demand more.

Posted October 24, 2007 01:41 PM

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